Hailing from London, all-round boss lady Sheena Ladwa is the Director of Artist Development label Ultimate Artists which she joined in 2014.
When presented with the opportunity to fulfil her vision of making a difference to and empowering people through music she jumped at the chance.
We invited Sheena in for an interview to shed some more light on women who run businesses in the UK and across the globe, she discusses why she pursued a career in music, how competitiveness could be our downfall, and how committing is the biggest step to running a business.
How did you come up with the concept of your business?
It was actually my business partner Joshua who conceptualised Ultimate Artists. Whilst on tour with the BBC’s The Voice, he was working with singers and realised that they were talented, but just needed that extra development. He wanted to create a space where singers/songwriters could come in and really develop and work on their craft. But in a safe environment where they would free to make mistakes, grow, and realise their true potential.
What has pushed you to keep pursuing it?
Ultimate Artists has been repeatedly described as ‘life-changing & transformational.’ Having been a signed artist at one time, I know firsthand how difficult the music business can be so for me it’s as simple as wanting to help people to not make the mistakes I made, but perhaps more importantly, a deep desire to empower people and have them believe in themselves, and help them to get closer to achieving their dreams. It’s not just about the talent though, it’s about really nurturing the people behind the art; looking after their mental wellbeing, helping them to develop their characters, building their confidence and the list goes on. It’s so much more than just the music alone.
Have you ever wanted to give up at any stage?
Being a woman in the music industry, have you had any issues along the way?
I feel like I’ve been very fortunate that I haven’t faced any real issues but in an industry that is male-dominated, sometimes it can be hard to discern one’s intentions but I feel like when you carry yourself in a certain way that commands respect, you usually receive it.
How can we encourage more women to enter the industry?
Firstly, you need to have the right mindset. Yes, the creative industries are competitive but rather than see your peers as your competition, see them as people that you can potentially collaborate with and learn from. There’s a beautiful quote that sums it up perfectly; ‘If you want to go fast, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together.’
Secondly, find a good mentor who can help to guide you, and build your skill set, your knowledge, and can help to navigate you through the industry. Someone who can help to build you up when it feels like it’s getting too much or the challenges are coming at you thick and fast. You are an average of the 5 people closest to you so choose your team well.
Lastly, make sure you know your intentions for getting involved in the industry. For me it was never about fame, money, award shows etc, it was an intention to really serve and help singers/songwriters. It’s hard work and some weeks, I’m working 7 days but the reward comes when you hear the words ‘if it wasn’t for Ultimate Artists, I don’t know where I’d be.’
What advice would you give to others who want to do the same thing?
Well in addition to the above, I would say, commit to the process! Because it is a process and the journey will take you on all kinds of highs and lows but once you know you’re fully committed and in it for the long haul, there’s a shift in the mindset that enables you to better cope with every aspect of business. It helps you to deal with the highs and lows in a more balanced and measured way.
What’s the one thing you’ve learnt that now that you would have told yourself when you first started your company?
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that even when it doesn’t make sense, everything that happens has a purpose. You can’t see it at the moment but when you look back, it all makes sense. In the beginning, I used to get emotional and caught up in the ‘why,’ which just takes up so much time and energy. Now when it’s all going a bit, Pete Tong, I’m able to step back and have a considered approach resolving a problem far quicker.
You can catch Sheena at an all women’s SYS Boss Lady Workshop at Grow Hackney, for more information click here.